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Cafferkey v. City and County of San Francisco

California Court of Appeals, First District, Fifth Division

May 8, 2015

FRANK CAFFERKEY et al., Plaintiffs and Appellants,
v.
CITY AND COUNTY OF SAN FRANCISCO, Defendant and Respondent.

Superior Court of the City and County of San Francisco, No. CGC-11-515538, Leslie C. Nichols, Judge.[*]

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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COUNSEL

Steyer Lowenthal Boodrookas Alvarez & Smith, Jeffrey H. Lowenthal and Michelle Akerman for Plaintiffs and Appellants.

Dennis J. Herrera, City Attorney, Jean Alexander, Chief Tax Attorney, Carole F. Ruwart and Thomas S. Lakritz, Deputy City Attorneys, for Defendant and Respondent.

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OPINION

Jones, P.J.

The City and County of San Francisco Office of the Assessor-Recorder (Assessor-Recorder) assesses taxable property within the county and records legal documents. (Gov. Code, § 27231; Rev. & Tax. Code, § 401.)[1] The Assessor-Recorder maintains two different sets of maps in its office: (1) assessor’s maps or block book maps, which are used to locate and identify property for tax assessment purposes (assessor’s maps); and (2) subdivision maps or parcel maps, which are used to lease, sell, or finance property (parcel maps).

This appeal arises out of a dispute regarding the property tax assessment of property owned by Frank and Maureen Cafferkey (collectively, Cafferkeys) in San Francisco’s Potrero Hill neighborhood. The Cafferkeys received a property tax bill for APN 28-4329-18 (Lot 18), [2] which appears on assessor’s maps but not on any parcel maps. The Cafferkeys paid the property taxes, but later filed a claim for a property tax refund, claiming the property taxes for Lot 18 were “erroneously and illegally collected” under section 5096, subdivision (b) because that property “does not exist” on the relevant parcel maps. The San Francisco Assessment Appeals Board (Board) denied the Cafferkeys’ claim, concluding the Assessor-Recorder’s numbering and identification of parcels for property tax purposes is independent of the numbering of parcels for subdivision purposes and that Lot 18 “exists for property tax purposes” on the assessor’s maps.

The Cafferkeys filed a complaint for a property tax refund in the superior court against the City and County of San Francisco (City). The court denied the Cafferkeys’ motion for summary judgment, concluding the Cafferkeys “failed to show that, as a matter of law, a discrepancy between” the parcel maps and the assessor’s maps “mandates a refund of assessed taxes.” The court granted the City’s motion for summary judgment. It determined the City “produced evidence showing it has the authority to assess taxes based” on the assessor’s maps and the Cafferkeys “failed to show the existence of a material issue of fact.” The court entered judgment for the City.

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The Cafferkeys appeal. They contend they are entitled to a property tax refund because the City created Lot 18 “by mistake” and not in accordance with section 327, which specifies requirements for identifying property on assessor’s maps. They also contend the court erred by granting summary judgment for the City because there are triable issues of material fact regarding the authenticity of the assessor’s maps, and whether assessor’s maps are actually distinct from parcel maps.

We affirm. We conclude the Assessor-Recorder created Lot 18 pursuant to its authority under section 327, and the Cafferkeys have failed to raise an issue of fact as to whether the assessor’s maps comply with that statute. As a result, the taxes for Lot 18 were not “[e]rroneously or illegally collected” (§ 5096, subd. (b)) and the Cafferkeys are not entitled to a tax refund.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

In 1999, the Cafferkeys purchased real property in San Francisco bordered by Vermont, 26th, and Army (later renamed Cesar Chavez) Streets, then known as APN 28-4329-15 (Lot 15). The 1999-2000 Assessor-Recorder’s property tax roll recorded Lot 15 at a reassessed value of $850, 000, and with a street address of 2550 Army Street, San Francisco, California. In 2000, the Cafferkeys recorded a parcel map (2000 parcel map) changing the lot number for Lot 15 from APN 28-4329-15 to APN 28-4329-17 (Lot 17). The 2002-2003 Assessor-Recorder’s property tax roll divided Lot 15 for property tax purposes into Lots 17 and 18.[3] The Assessor-Recorder prepared and recorded an assessor’s map describing Lot 18 for property tax assessment purposes at Pages 4329, 4327A Sheet 2, and 4327A Sheet 3 of Volume 28 of the assessor’s map books.

In 2003, the Cafferkeys recorded another parcel map (2003 parcel map) subdividing Lot 17 into 10 lots - APN 28-4329-19 through APN 28-4329-28 (collectively, Lots 19 through 28). The Cafferkeys built one condominium on each of those lots.[4] The 2004-2005 Assessor’s property tax roll divided Lot 17 into Lots 19 through 28.

In 2003, the Cafferkeys received property tax bills for Lot 18, bearing the address 2550 Cesar Chavez Street, San Francisco, California. Lot 18 is not

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depicted on the 2000 or 2003 parcel maps. The Cafferkeys paid certain property taxes for Lot 18. From 2003 to 2009, the Cafferkeys received additional property tax bills for Lot 18, but did not pay them. The Cafferkeys believed “the bills were being sent to [them] in error” because Lot 18 was not a parcel number for any of their properties, and the physical address for Lot 18 was not the address for any of their properties. In 2009, the Cafferkeys received a notice of tax sale for Lot 18. To avoid the sale, the Cafferkeys negotiated an installment agreement and paid the back taxes for Lot 18, and the property taxes for tax year 2010-2011. From 2009 to 2012, the Cafferkeys paid $390, 027.90 in property taxes for Lot 18.

The Cafferkeys’ Property Tax Refund Claim

In 2010, the Cafferkeys filed an application for changed assessment, which served as a claim for property tax refund. The Cafferkeys argued the property taxes for Lot 18 were “[e]rroneously and illegally collected” because that property did “not exist” on the 2000 or 2003 parcel maps. They sought a refund of $152, 823.99 in property taxes and interest for tax years 2003 through 2010. They alleged the value of Lot 18 was $0 because it “has never existed.”

At a March 2011 hearing before the Board on the timeliness of the tax refund application, the Assessor-Recorder’s Chief Appraiser, Matthew A. Thomas, offered “some context” on the nature of the dispute. He explained, “this was due to a parcel split and there was, I believe, a clerical error involved.... Basically, what happened was there was a [Lot] 15. It was supposed to become just renamed [Lot] 17. [¶] What happened was that [Lot] 15 became 17 and 18. And so the value for [Lot] 15 was split into 17 and 18. The taxpayer received bills going back to 2003... for both [Lots] 17 and 18. They paid 17. They didn’t pay 18. We have met a few times. We’ve shown the taxpayer that there has not been an over assessment.... They just have been receiving bills since 2003 and not paying them. And now... in ...


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